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Shanghai Triad (1995)
"Yao a yao, yao dao wai po qiao" (original title)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  22 December 1995 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,828 users  
Reviews: 37 user | 28 critic

A provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant to a ganglord's mistress.

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Title: Shanghai Triad (1995)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Xiao Jingbao
Baotian Li ...
Tang, the Gang Boss
Wang Xiaoxiao ...
Shuisheng, the boy
...
Liu, 6th Uncle
Chun Sun ...
Song, Tang's No. 2
Biao Fu ...
Zheng, Tang's No.3
Shu Chen ...
Shi Ye
Jiang Liu ...
Fat Yu
Baoying Jiang ...
Cuihua, the Widow
Yang Qianquan ...
Ah Jiao
Ying Gao
Weiming Gao
Lian Shuliang
Ya'nan Wang
Zhang Yayun
Edit

Storyline

Uncle Liu brings his cousin to Shanghai to work for 'Boss,' the leader of a powerful drug empire in the 1930's. Shuisheng, a simple country boy is awed and overwhelmed by the opulence and immense wealth he is suddenly surrounded by. He is to be the attendant of Xiao Jingbao, the new mistress of 'Boss.' While he fumbles with the demands of his new role, much intrigue is going on around him, well beyond his bewildered perception. Xiao Jingbao is having a tumultuous affair, Fat Yu is starting a gang war, and 'Boss' is beginning to suspect that one of his trusted men is not loyal. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In 1930's Shanghai violence was not the problem. It was the solution.

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language and images of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

22 December 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Shanghai Triad  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Gross:

SGD 780,000 (Singapore)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

|

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was a difficult film for Yimou Zhang to make. His relationship with his leading lady Li Gong was coming to an acrimonious end and the Chinese authorities were deliberately hassling him with complicated and elusive work permits. That was mainly because they were still annoyed with him for submitting his previous film To Live (1994) to the Cannes Film Festival without their permission. See more »

Quotes

Xiao Jingbao: [to Song] Just because you fucked me you think you're the boss?
See more »

Connections

Featured in The 68th Annual Academy Awards (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Let's get out of the weeds and back in the nightclub.
9 February 2001 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

There has been way to much chatter about how beautiful this film is with its sumptuous sets, costumes, and magnificent photography. On the surface this looks like another gangster film, this time taking place in Shanghai. But of course, it isn't. The gangster scenario is just the backdrop really.

Shuisheng, a boy of 14, has come to the city to serve the haughty and beautiful Xiao Jingbao, the nightclub singing moll of Tang, head of the most powerful gang in Shanghai.

Shuisheng's uncle is a riot as he gives the boy a whacky set of instructions on how to be a proper servant to snobby Xiao, wonderfully played by Gong Li. "Call her 'Miss'. Follow her wherever she goes, not to far behind, and not to close. That's the rule. Hold her coat in your left hand and her hat in the right, but don't let the coat drag on the floor. That's the rule. Got it?" And the Shuisheng replies, "Got it." However, after "Miss" delights in calling him a country bumpkin, and chews him out a couple of times, (And why not, Shuisheng can't tell a red dress from a green one.) the kid starts looking for the exit. When his uncle tells him, "When she rings for you, stop everything (yes, everything) and go to her. Got it?" His reply this time is, "I want to leave." Bad move, uncle is most displeased.

In many ways, Shuisheng is the most inscrutable character in the movie. He's got a real poker face, and you'll probably have a tough time deciding if he's an idiot, or a sharp kid who's observing things closely and learning fast. This is the heart of the film, the relationship between the boy and the woman. Eventually, the boy will find out the self-important, hip swinging Xiao Jingbao is miserable. She is the beautiful songbird hopelessly trapped in a world where she is bathed in luxury by the ruthless Tang, with no hope of freedom.

The boy's whole attitude changes when he realizes this, and the question the film poses from here is ... what, if anything, can he do about it? If this was an American film, (and I'd love to see such a version) probably plenty, but director Yimou Zhang is a cynical man with a dark outlook on life. All his films have downbeat endings, and this one is no exception. What really bothers me though, is that events take place that result in a complete shift in setting half way through the film, and that's always a dangerous move in the cinema. And this abrupt shift comes at a time when things are just getting interesting in the nightclub, when Shuisheng realizes "Miss" is very unhappy. He might have been able to help her in the big city and spacious confines of the nightclub, but marooned on an island, there's not much he can do. This is a good film, but I would have liked to see the plot move in a different direction in the second half.


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